Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Chuck Hagel: Casualty of War?

by Kyle Michaelis
Sen. Chuck Hagel made some enlightening remarks in today's Lincoln Journal-Star that might just be the best indicator yet of where he's at mentally and emotionally looking at the 2008 elections:
Hagel said he willingly accepts whatever political price he may be asked to pay for opposing a president of his own party on the war.

“A senior statewide Republican politician berates me now around this state on Iraq and immigration,” Hagel noted.

Attorney General Jon Bruning already has entered the 2008 GOP race for Hagel’s Senate seat. Hagel said he still has not decided whether he’ll seek re-election to a third term.

“I may be a political casualty before people figure this out,” Hagel said. “I’m prepared to take that risk. I accept that. I couldn’t do it any other way.

“Your career could be ended,” he said. “But you’re here to do what you think is right.”

Hagel hasn’t ruled out the thought of a 2008 presidential bid. “Is there a place I could fit in nationally where I could make a difference,” he wondered, “maybe even be elected president?”....

No matter what he decides to do, Hagel said, he will not withdraw from the policy arena. “Whatever I do, I want to continue to have the opportunity to influence the world and the outcome of policy,” Hagel said. “That does not have to be within politics, as Bob Kerrey and others have demonstrated.”
Berated by Bruning. Still imagining the presidency. Ready to follow Bob Kerrey's footsteps, perhaps even trading places (Hagel's not heading into Academia, but you know what I mean).

As for Hagel's willingness to be martyred by the Republican Party over the Iraq War, it's impossible to know whether that's a genuine stand on principle or a calculated political risk, but it sure is a refreshing contrast from the silence of our Republican Congressmen and Bruning's pandering to the far right-wing.
If President Bush doesn’t change policy in Iraq, the Congress will force change through its appropriations power this autumn, Sen. Chuck Hagel said...

“The American people have left Bush on this,” Hagel said, “and many Republicans will not stay with him now” if he doesn’t change course.

“The political reality is coming down the track, and my Republican colleagues know it.”
On Iraq, the time of reckoning is at hand. Chuck Hagel knows it and hasn't been afraid to say so. The question is whether his fellow Republicans - especially those in his home state - have any real understanding of what's truly at stake, or are they so sheltered in their partisan bubble that even after 50 months they're still incapable of acknowledging this war for the disaster that it is.

And, for Nebraska's purposes, here's maybe the most interesting question of them all - just when Republicans seem ready to break from Bush on Iraq, does Jon Bruning really believe he can position himself for a Senate seat by riding Bush's tattered, lame-duck coattails straight into 'stay the course'-oblivion? When the tide has already turned, does Bruning really think it smart to condemn Hagel and make an enemy of him for having had both eyes open and daring to speak the truth?

Of course, this is Nebraska. Maybe the real question is just how far removed from reality and lost to their partisanship our average Republican voter truly is. For that answer, the coming months will be most telling as the fall approaches and our empty suit Congressmen meekly position themselves on the most important issue of our day.

What will our Timid Trio of Lee Terry, Jeff Fortenberry, and Adrian Smith have to say? How will their supporters respond? How will the rest of Nebraska respond? The time is now to stand up and be heard - to force the change of course that Hagel predicts. Where is the pressure? Where is the outrage? With these Congressmen, do we really expect them to take the initiative? Have we given up on reaching them? If so, have we given up on beating them? Or - despite all the polling data - at the end of the day, do we really just not care what happens in Iraq?

If so, the true casualty of this war will be a far more tragic loss than Hagel's political career but rather the loss of our faith in the character of the American people and the genius of democracy.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day tomorrow. Celebrate that patriotic spirit. Then, live it, and - by doing so - earn it.

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Blogger JimEenright said...

Glad that Sen. Hagel is resigned to losing his Senate seat, because he will. He's a great hunman being, but the Republicans of Nebraska know he has to go for the good of the country, not just the party. I wish him the best as a ver useful private citizen.


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